Quote of the Day
Rich, fabulous people are the ideal billboards for luxury brands. Our nation’s best universities have adopted the same strategy. Universities are no longer nonprofits, but the highest-gross-margin luxury brands in the world. Another trait of a luxury brand is the illusion of scarcity. Over the last 30 years, the number of applicants to Stanford has tripled, while the size of the freshman class has remained static. Harvard and Stanford have become finishing school for the global wealthy.
- Scott Galloway
Carl Reiner RIP
A giant of American comedy has died at the age of 98. He was still writing up to the day he passed away.
He was a great writer for TV — creator of the Dick Van Dyke Show which ran from 1961 to 1966 and earned him six Emmy awards. As a comedian, he was the consummate straight man. For a snatch of it, hear him with his pal Mel Brooks in a routine they developed which became The 2000 year old man.
And if you have time, this is a wonderful TV interview they did in 2000:
“Ghislaine, Is That You?”: Inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s Life on the Lam
This Vanity Fair report by Mark Seal on the hunt for Geoffrey Epstein’s (and Prince Andrew’s) friend — and alleged procurer — is a terrific long read.
After Epstein’s death, Maxwell disappeared from view entirely, leaving the courts, the media, his victims, and a transfixed and horrified public focused on a single question: Where in the world was Ghislaine Maxwell? Everyone, it seemed, had a theory, each wilder than the last. She was said to be hiding deep beneath the sea in a submarine, which she was licensed to pilot. Or she was lying low in Israel, under the protection of the Mossad, the powerful intelligence agency with whom her late father supposedly tangled. Or she was in the FBI witness protection program, or ensconced in luxury in a villa in the South of France, or sunning herself naked on the coast of Spain, or holed up in a high-security doomsday bunker belonging to rich and powerful friends whose lives might implode should Maxwell ever reveal what she knows—all the dirty secrets of the dirty world that she and Epstein shared.
I expect Prince Andrew is not enjoying it, though — any more than he enjoyed Marina Hyde’s latest piece in the Guardian.
Lockdown and summer reading – 2
From Martin’s Wolf’s list
Martin Wolf is one of my favourite commentators. He’s very serious, knowledgeable and, in a word, wise. Several times a year he produces a long list of books he’s read and finds worth recommending. This is my distillation of his Summer Books list.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University Press. This is about why mortality rates of middle-aged White Americans stopped falling in the 21st century and — have been rising for non-college-educated men. Wolf calls this a “seminal” book, and he’s right. I’ve been reading it. The German magazine Der Spiegel did a long interview with the authors recently which is worth reading. Here’s a slightly critical review, and a more appreciative NYT review.
Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers by John Kay and Mervyn King. The future isn’t calculable, so why do we believe that it is (or might be)? The right approach, Kay and King argue, is to accept that we don’t live in a world of calculable risk, but of radical uncertainty. Brief NYT review here.
Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty, Belknap Press. This is other big book of the year, in both senses. It’s huge — over 1000 pages; and it has an amazing historical sweep. It is, says Wolf, “an immense work of scholarship on the history of inequality”. The Boston Review published a terrific, far-ranging review. I read Piketty’s previous best-seller and am contemplating embarking on this. But on the other hand there are only 24 hours in the day, even under lockdown.
Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together by Margaret Heffernan, Simon & Schuster. Argues that we should wean ourselves off attempting precise ‘prediction’ and focus instead on preparedness, adaptability and robustness. This is the book that Dominic Cummings, with his delusions about ‘superforecasting’ ought to read. But I doubt that he will.
My wife’s late father was in the Normandy Landings in June 1944 and she’s been going through his archive where she came on this rousing exhortation from Field-Marshal Montgomery, who — as you can see from the general tone — was clearly one of Boris Johnson’s spiritual forebears.
Monty was also (like Johnson) a prime pain in the ass, and one of the most astute decisions the Allies made in planning Operation Overlord was to make Eisenhower Supreme Commander rather than him.
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